Saturday, April 14, 2007

Olde Corps

The Marine Corps Birthday Ball is a pretty significant event for Marines. It is a time to celebrate the Birthday of our beloved Corps, pay homage to the past victories of Marines, raise a glass to our brothers here and now, and look forward to future glories. One of the means by which we do this during the Birthday Ball is the ceremonial cutting of the cake.

Most cake cutting ceremonies that I have witnessed have been a pretty formal affair. Marines definitely do formal pretty darn good, if I do say so myself. As the Master of Ceremonies narrates, the C.O. will stand in front of the assembly with the oldest and youngest Marines present. A brief bio of both the oldest and youngest are read off, usually accompanied by low whistles and much clapping for the grey beard, and groans for the young'un (as the room en masse realizes exactly how young that devil pup actually is, and how old that makes the rest of us). They are afforded the honor of the first slices of cake, symbolizing the passing of knowledge from the old to the new.

As I said, a (usually) formal occasion.

In order to confirm that the oldest Marine is up there for the cake cutting, several things happen behind the scenes leading up to that moment. As the Marines arrive at the Ball, the Marines in charge of the ceremonies patrol the room, alternately ogling the dates and searching for any older, grizzled vets. They collect information, compare results, and then determine who they will need for the ceremony.

At a Birthday Ball several years ago, conversations were at a low roar, Marines were looking sharp in their dress blues, and everything was all hunky-dory. All in step with the music, several Marines in an honor guard escorted the C.O., a Private we'll call Pvt. Schmuckatelli, and a distinguished looking older gentleman up to the stage. Meanwhile, the M.C. for the evening was doing a pretty good job at moving the ceremonies right along, with a minimum of feedback from the microphones.

M.C. was covering familiar ground in the description of the cutting of the cake ceremony. He addressed the crowd in a clear voice, proudly describing the significance and solemnity of the event for all, old hands and new. As he came to the bio of the older Marine, he paused momentarily, adjusted the mic, and jumped right in.

M.C. - Honored guests, ladies and gentlemen, Marines. It is my pleasure to introduce to you Sergeant Fogey and Pvt. Schmuckatelli. Sergeant Fogey was born way back in... ...dropping out of his senior year in high school to join the Corps in 19... ...after boot camp, he was assigned -

This is where it got interesting...

From the back of the room, a decidedly crusty old bastard kind of voice sounded off with, "What in the holy hell is going on here? Gawd-dammit, I am a hell of a lot older that that bastard up there! Pipe down, Mildred, I'm not gonna sit down and shut up! What kind of @#$^!!& operation do they think they're running here!" He might have been older than dirt, but his voice carried very well, indeed. Good set of lungs on that one...

The room got veeery quiet aside from a few whispered comments and chuckles, an "" or two from the M.C., one of the organizers very clearly muttering "aw, crap", and the crusty old guy ranted on. The C.O. was frantically gesturing for somebody to DO SOMETHING, M.C. was in full stop mode, and the Pvt. just looked like he wanted to take cover, somewhere...else. Me, I had nearly snorted a whiskey flavored ice cube half-way up my left nostril, I was in no position for commentary, as humorous as the situation was.

Suffice it to say, that in the 'good old days', when something was in the slightest bit off, crusty old bastards (like the one we were honored to have present), had no problem with sounding off in the clear, colorful direct-to-the-point language that warms the hearts of all Marines, making them think fondly of their Drill Instructors.

Olde Corps

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